Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey Best Difficulty—Which to Choose

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey Best Difficulty
The difficulty you choose can significantly impact your gaming experience.

What Options Are There?

Compared to other games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, the sprawling open world of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is by far the most RPG-heavy—it can be gruelling, especially for fans of the franchise less accustomed to the style of RPGs. Luckily, however, there are ways of adapting the gameplay to suit your preferred style, and at the beginning there are choices to be made that will affect how you experience the game: exploration mode, level scaling, and, of course, difficulty. 

This article is not a review of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, but an overview of the options regarding the difficulty of the gameplay. These options work together to influence the overall difficulty of the game, and so it is important to match them together in a way that suits your play-style.

Guided or Exploration

Decide how you will explore the massive open world of Odyssey

The first decision to be made is whether you will play in one of two modes, Guided or Exploration:

  • The Guided mode is your typical open-world style, whereby quest markers are followed upon taking on a new quest. Overall, it is nice, easy to follow, and conventional. 
  • Exploration, on the other hand, requires you to interrogate the NPCs that give you quests, and you must probe them for information in order to figure out where to go next. It makes the game feel a bit more like real life, where there are no markers in the sky informing you as to where random people and places you just found out about are. Exploration mode requires you to think a little harder about what you’re doing rather than just mindlessly heading from location to location.

If you are like me, and directions are not your strong suit—even in a virtual world with an easy-to-follow-map—you’re probably better off simply going with Guided mode, at least for the first play-through.

Level Scaling

Decide what level your opponents will be

The next option is regarding level scaling, which has a much larger impact on how you experience combat in the game. When the game was first released, the most frequent complaint that players had was that the scaling made the game too hard. Enemies constantly scaled to keep things challenging, but all that really meant was that players never got much stronger relative to your enemies, regardless of how much effort players put into building a powerful character.

In 2019 Ubisoft introduced a change to the game by providing alternatives for how players wanted to handle scaling. The Level Scaling option can help you adjust the challenge posed by quests and enemies to better match your personal style of playing, and there are four options:

  •  Default/Normal allows the default, pre-set difficulty to dictate the challenge of the content. This is how the game was played before Ubisoft introduced any options for scaling.
  • Heavy allows the content to match your current player level.
  • Medium allows the content to be up to two levels below your current player level.
  •  Light allows the content to be up to four levels below your current player level.

This system doesn’t really need much further explanation, though it is important to note that you can mix and match these levels with different Difficulties; for example, playing on Easy Difficulty Mode with Heavy Level Scaling.

Difficulty Mode

Try your hand against Medusa on Nightmare Level for true nightmare-fuel

Players will finally then  select what overall difficulty to play the game at. I found that the difficulty level chosen affects how you enjoy the game more than most other RPGs, and especially when compared to other Assassin’s Creed games.

It is important to note that there are no rewards or trophies for playing the game at harder difficulties, so players don’t have to worry about missing out on any potential achievements if they undertake the game at a lower difficulty.

Having played the game at each of the four difficulty options for different lengths of times, I have concluded  about my own thoughts on the best way to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and so here is my review on each level.

Easy Mode

Come face to face with some of the best figures from Greek mythology.

I have encountered two camps of people who have played Odyssey: those who think that Nightmare Mode is too easy, and those who think that Easy Mode is too hard. Of those two camps, I think I come closer to falling into the latter. I don’t think that Odyssey is a simple game , and that is due, mostly, to the overall size and scope of the world. In fact, I would equate ‘Easy’ in Odyssey to ‘Normal’ in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

There are hundreds of quests to do and so many places to explore, but in order to actually see a large portion of the map without being immediately cut down by someone dozens of levels above you, you need to grind. Grinding is an aspect of almost all open world RPGs, but Ieven on Easy Mode Odyssey takes  grinding to the next level. Simply following the story is not an option; in order to level up enough to follow the main story, you’ll still need to complete a lot of side missions, contracts, and bounties in order to earn XP.

It is a turnoff  for gamers who want to get through the game as quickly as possible while still fully experiencing Odyssey’s story that you can easily get stuck on one enemy for what feels like hours on end. Even on Easy Mode, I very nearly gave up the game for good while fighting Medusa as it took me countless turns to finally beat her. I felt like I was slowly going insane, carrying out repetitive movements again and again and again and again and dying over and over until I finally, by chance, defeated her. And yet when I replayed the game on Hard Mode, I slew Medusa in one go. Go figure.

For those who simply want to experience the game without too much of a challenge, Easy mode is the obvious choice.

Normal Mode

Some opponents have abilities that make them much harder to defeat, even at your level.

The second difficulty is exactly as it says on the tin—it’s not too hard, not too easy. Normal Mode isn’t that much different from Easy, save for the fact that you’re going to spend a bit longer hacking away at some enemies. That was the only real, discernible difference between the two.

Normal Mode is a nice starting place for players who are familiar with both RPGs and Assassin’s Creed mechanics, but who don’t want to launch themselves into the deep end straight off the mark. Overall, there isn’t that much of a difference when compared to Easy, since the options for level scaling were introduced in 2019. Which of the four scaling options you choose is what really matters with regards to Normal Mode.

Hard Mode

Some of the best fights you will experience will be against the Cult of Kosmos.

Hard Mode was my favorite way to play, out of the four difficulty options. Once I was familiar with the game and its combat style, Hard Mode presented enough of a challenge to engage my interest and ensure each quest felt refreshing and new.

As the game progresses and the world opens up, it becomes more of a simply compelling challenge rather than a sluggish chore to complete quests and spend time on some of the other aspects of the game, such as the Navy Battles and the Conquest Battles. But these aspects also mean that unlike other Assassin’s Creed games, you cannot simply spend all your time concentrating on building up stealth.

I found I did best on Hard Mode when I spent my ability points wisely—on second wind healing, on archery, and on some of the stealth abilities, rather than building up a hulking strong warrior. These abilities and how they affect your fighting style also make the game especially interesting when it comes to fighting certain enemies, especially the Legendary beasts, as you cannot simply attack them and then run away to heal.

There are many reasons why I enjoyed Hard Mode the most. It was gruelling enough that it still felt like an accomplishment to finish the main three storylines, but it was not impossible, once I got the hang of the game.

Speaking of impossible…

Nightmare Mode

Conquest Battles are one of the most enjoyable aspects of Odyssey.

I have encountered plenty of folk in online forums who claimed that Nightmare Mode was just too easy, too repetitive, too boring. I imagine such folk are perhaps professional gamers who have spent thousands upon thousands of hours gliding through every game out there, and now find that nothing is enough of a challenge for them. The best way I can think to describe Nightmare Mode is to describe it as an open-world Dark Souls set in the beautiful islands of ancient  Greece, where one light stab is enough to bring about your untimely demise and the only way to avoid dying is to just keep running away.I was easily killed by enemies at the exact same level as me in only a handful of hits, but the enemies were essentially damage sponges.

Slashing a sword at a basic Athenian soldier, much longer than someone like Kassandra/Alexios would, simply wasn’t entertaining or realistic to the game’s lore, and being overwhelmed by more than one enemy meant instant death.

Don’t get me wrong—this mode will definitely appeal to a lot of hardened gamers with the patience to die over and over again; I simply am not one of them. Even so,  I do recommend this Mode to anyone looking for a real obstacle to overcome, or anyone who hates Kassandra/Alexios enough to find pleasure in watching them continuously die in increasingly gruesome ways.


Don't be put out if the game seems too hard at first.

Overall, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is a game that finds innovative ways to challenge its players while still creating a brilliantly compelling story. This game captures  the essence of Classical Greece, with period-accurate architecture, clothing, and weapons that work alongside a brilliant cast of historical and fictional characters, during the real events as recorded by the historian Thucydides. Of course, it should not be mistaken as an historically accurate game, but it still manages to feel like ancient  Greece brought to life. The ability to discuss philosophy with Socrates, fight alongside Brasidas, flirt with Alcibiades, plot with Pericles—it is the potential to do these things is what makes the world of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey so appealing.

The decisions regarding the game’s difficulty will influence your thoughts regarding the game, and if you find it too hard at a particular level I implore you to lower it and not give up, as this game is truly unique, and an enjoyable experience for anyone with interest in the ever-awe-inspiring world of Ancient Greece.


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Top 15 Best Assassin’s Creed Games to Play Today


Even after hundreds of hours building up knowledge of every good horror story, all there is to know about RPGs, and the best fantasy has to offer, Katie's most played game is still Stardew Valley.
Gamer Since: 2011
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Horizon Zero Dawn
Top 3 Favorite Games:The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, Mount & Blade: Warband

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